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President Donald Trump declared war on members of his own party on Thursday by threatening the political careers of conservative Republicans who helped torpedo healthcare legislation he backed, but was quickly told the lawmakers will not bow to "bullying."
In a Twitter post, Trump took aim at the Freedom Caucus, a bloc of the most conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, indicating he would try to defeat them in next year's congressional elections if they continued to defy him.
"The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!" Trump said on Twitter.
Because Trump faces unified opposition by Democratic lawmakers, he cannot afford to lose many Republicans as he tries to get his legislative agenda through Congress, including healthcare, tax cuts and infrastructure spending. But keeping Freedom Caucus members happy without losing the votes of Republican moderates has proven tough.
Representative Justin Amash, a Freedom Caucus member from Michigan, shot back immediately at Trump in remarks outside the U.S. Capitol.
"Most people don't take well to being bullied," Amash told reporters. Asked if Trump's comments were constructive, Amash added: "It's constructive in fifth grade. It may allow a child to get his way, but that's not how our government works."
Since launching his presidential bid in 2015, Trump has shown little reluctance to assail fellow Republican political adversaries as well as Democrats, often in scathing terms.
Trump, a real estate magnate who touted his skills as a dealmaker in his White House campaign, previously accused Freedom Caucus lawmakers of snatching "defeat from the jaws of victory" with their opposition to Republican healthcare legislation he supported to replace Democratic former President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Trump went farther on Thursday. He equated members of his own party with the opposition Democrats, reflecting the extent to which he felt betrayed by the conservative lawmakers after the collapse of his first major legislative initiative.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters, "I understand the president's frustration," adding that he shared the frustration. Ryan said he was encouraging Republican lawmakers "to keep talking to one another."
The mistrust between the White House and hardline conservatives in Congress has called into question the next big item on Trump's agenda, sweeping tax cuts.
2017.03.30 / 20:44